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Construction Virtual Prototype Generation with BIM (Building Information Modelling) During Conceptual Phase of A Project Facility-Case Study of a Treatment Plant

Pre-construction phase
Prof. Malla.Vijayeta, PMP®
Faculty, National Institute of Construction Management & Research,


Pre-construction phase of every project encompasses with calculated assumptions, risks, constraints and imaginary versioned project outcome in the minds of project stakeholders. Typically a plethora number of two dimensional digital platform technologies are available, but the lack of data or integrated information platform and parametric object oriented model developments for a particular facility deemed to be a bottleneck. It is very uncommon to witness and implement digital prototyping technologies in construction industry unlike in aeronautical and automotive industries which vehemently reaped fruitful outcomes through the usage of information systems and embracing of such simulation technologies. This paper elucidates how these technologies can be implemented in construction industry during the inception phase of a project for co-ordinated and effective planning at preliminary level.

The research methodology adopted here is the development of a BIM (Building Information Modelling) framework for a treatment unit building and evolution of virtual prototype on behalf of the contractor in order to ameliorate the decision making capability of planning team with the generation of BIM Model. The inferences and key takeaways were considered with the execution of BIM framework for a Treatment Unit Building and validate the key planning competence through a pilot case study. The results from the case study recognizes the role of digital prototyping in components’ modelling, site logistics modelling, construction methodology visualisation and virtual identification of safety hazards prior to actual execution at site premises.

Keywords: Building Information Modeling; Construction Planning; Virtual Design & Construction; parametric models ; logistics planning

1.0 Background:

Water Infrastructure Projects in Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Operation (AECO) industry has been confronting grave issues from inception to facilities management stage. Apart from that the conventional silos oriented execution techniques with mere usage of 2D CAD drawings would leave a quantum gap in data information exchange and collaboration among the stakeholders. At this juncture, in the construction industry, BIM (Building Information Modeling) has been a panacea where it transformed from a mere buzzword to centrepiece of AEC industry. Water Infrastructure Industry typically needs two-dimensional drawings for shifting the design information to onsite. With the increase in severity of urban water pollution, the treatment process of the same becomes cumbersome and highly complicated. Also with the usage of conventional 2D design, the construction management of Sewage Treatment Projects is highly fiddly and tedious. This paper dives into implementation of BIM application at the inception stage which is one of the disruptive processes in the contemporary Indian Construction Industry. A 4D BIM (Building Information Modeling) framework has been developed for constructability analysis and automatic checking / clash detection mechanism on a real time Sewage Treatment Plant of a Project in India. This proved to be a decision enabling tool for the planning team. Parametric objects are key to apprehension of BIM in contrast to traditional 3D building objects. Apart from that visualization, simulation and integration of building components in a digital model enables early involvement of all stakeholders prior to onsite execution. The implementation of BIM is elaborated for an ongoing project which has used core software’s and imported the schedule information to create a 4D model and performed construction simulation model, wherein the project team meticulously imbibed the BIM technology in the construction management of Treatment Plant in India.

2.0 Literature Review- Building Information Modeling

Water & Waste Water Treatment projects with distribution network and waste water collection pipeline schemes relied on anonymous aspects like as positioning of existing utilities, subsurface state, location of prevailing utilities, uncertainty of ground and soil types, pipe-soil interactions, right of way, canal/ channel design, material of construction of pipe, etc. Hence substantial Water Infrastructure projects manage with these irresolute variables. The industry now understands that the 2 D drawings are prone to errors & contradictions and increasing complexities of the designs demanded a better “paradigm shift”. Nevertheless, the AECO industries without any reluctance implemented the technology in project delivery process. The utilization of software and enterprise resource planning synchronization is universally used for accelerating the project deliveries. For illustration, estimation and scheduling can now be implemented swiftly using estimation and scheduling software, digital drawings and digitizers [1]

Although the application of estimating and scheduling software’s enhanced the project delivery method, the efficiency, the costs associated owing to change orders, oversight errors, rework has been a gigantic risk which the construction business is inadequate to handle it proficiently. In line with data of 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis conveyed that construction was instrumental for roughly 4% of the 2008 US Gross Domestic Product with revenue of $582 billion [2]. In addition to that the research conducted by the Construction Industry Institute (CII) evaluates that direct costs created by rework in the construction industry on an average five percent of the total construction costs of a project [2]. This manifests approximately $29 billion in 2008 alone. Thus, the industry is welcoming mammoth technological and institutional reforms accompanied with subsequent hiccups and oppositions. An important aid to such transformation is the usage of information technology and application of such practices [3]. A significant portion of existing unfruitful tasks links to inoperability or inefficient information exchange which is the resultant of industries’ slow pace at adopting new technologies. Procedures recommended to tackle these obstacles require an exceptional method that venerates uncertain influences and interests of the stakeholders and comprises the adaptation of new technologies and processes such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) [2].

The ‘D’ elements of BIM relate to the information associated with the model.4D indicates to scheduling information which determines when a facility will be constructed and with that information we can ease just-in- time (JIT) procurement of materials to site. Eventually, this has a cascading effect on conveyance logistics, enabling it more productive, and lessens inventory issues as materials are supplied and instantaneously installed. 5D corresponds to quantity take offs and cost estimation aspects of the project where in every object of the building is associated with cost. Project detailed cost budget can be arrived using this data and also helps for earned value analysis like forecasting the estimate to complete, Cost Variance, Actual Cost analysis etc at any point of time.6D deals with energy simulations and sustainability goals for a facility at conceptual and detailed levels and monitoring of LEED attributes using various parameters like energy consumption from a construction material. 7D is related to constructed drawings of BIM model which is necessary during Operation & Maintenance stage to the client.

On application to a project, BIM stands for Information management data funded to and pooled by all project members. The right information to the right person at the right time.

To project members, BIM signifies an interoperable practice for project delivery describing how discrete teams work and how many teams work organized to conceive, design, build & operate a facility.

To the design team, BIM symbolizes integrated design harnessing technology solutions, motivating creativity, providing more feedback, empowering a team.'[4]

BIM is an information and work collaboration process, allowing the coherent flow of communication and presenting a foundation platform from which everyone can work in an integrated and informed mode in contrast to upholding isolated information, notions and drawings. Building information models are platforms for collaboration. [5]

Primarily there are two standards being utilized for information sharing i.e. Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) and COBie.IFCs describe about building and construction industry information. It is an unbiased platform and open file format formed by building-SMART [6] to ease the interoperability in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. COBie is a non-graphical data format concentrating on delivering building information and is the subset of building model information. It is closely related with BIM and is generally exchanged using XML. These formats assist BIM interoperability and all BIM software is able to ingest this data.

3.0 Scope & Objective:

This paper provides a deeper insight into BIM and its application in design and construction management. This provides a powerful mechanism in combining BIM with 4D planning techniques in order to create a framework for simulation using software such as Autodesk Navisworks Manage for clash detection management, constructability review and quantity take offs. Significantly it provides a support and guidelines for design engineers and construction managers & other stakeholders throughout the life cycle of a project. Thus, this study presents an application of BIM to support managers during this delicate and complex phase. Moreover it is based on a synergy between BIM and construction scheduling where it uses two software i.e. Microsoft Project and Autodesk Revit. The objective is to display the effective coordination by identifying the construction errors, risks, improved equipment movement logistics and costs in BIM model through clash detection of a construction site at a specific point of time in a three dimensional (3D) BIM model. For this, we have to provide the required input data with the use of laptops or tablets that are easily useable in-situ. This data allowed the user to have the following benefits:

Enhanced Submittal Progress: Input submittal status into model during review clearly identified pieces to be resubmitted Avoided fabrication delays I

  • Fabrication status communication
  • Conceptual Planning Sequence
  • Detailed Planning during review meetings and analyzing of quantities with greater accuracy
  • Modifications or changes in the Single Model
  • Material Tracking
  • Material Reconciliation

Lessons Learned for Project specific problems dictate BIM use and value. 4D Coordination Scheduling (5D) Material Tracking, 6D for facility management processHence, this BIM enabled Constructability review and automatic checking enables the manager to detect the sensitive areas of the construction works in the BIM model, and categorize them in terms of their level of importance.



4.0 Methodology

The methodology proposes introduction of BIM platform for 4D Constructability review and interference management for a 100 MLD STP and how it played a pedestal role in terms of sharing of knowledge and communication between project team for ameliorated benefits. The Project team had prepared 3D BIM model of the STP with good for construction drawings released by the design team ( Architectural, Structural & Mechanical Electrical & Plumbing drawings) using Autodesk Revit and Autodesk Navisworks Manage software

4.1 The Application of BIM In Conceptual & Planning Phase

A BIM model was generated using Autodesk product; Revit 2017. Building components like walls, materials, components have been identified and drawn as object oriented elements. As the conventional design is based on CAD platform, 3D design ideas of designer have to be articulated by 2D drawings, the construction team has to comprehend the 2D drawings and transform them to 3D building construction, during this process, the 2D and 3D information transforms for 2 times. Eventually the building / facility’s poor visualization, imprecise information will lead to communication problems and inevitable errors causing construction delays. The STP model created by BIM contains a complete database of the specified project related information of individual buildings. This database contains the size, number, location and other information of all components in a construction project. The BIM model of an administrative building is depicted as shown in figure 6 & 7 provides better visualization for the planning team as the model was expressed by parametric information, we can see the visual angle which cannot be expressed by 2D drawings. With this parameterization and visualization of BIM, the complexity of the structure is revealed and we arrived at accurate quantification of materials required for construction which is depicted in Figure 9. For complex and mass quantity kind of structures like Sewage Treatment Plant, Revit, a BIM enabled software would provide us the special tools for instance like dimension tool.

The following are the benefits which the construction team has relished:

  • Spot generation of Construction Drawings- Architects, engineers and construction and construction with active collaboration has been improved meteorically with this BIM models. However, the construction drawings needs to be prepared with proper standards and correctly too in order to expedite the process of production of drawings. Figure 6 & 7 shows the early development of 3D models.
  • Sharing of models with the Construction team Greater collaboration and transparency with a single shared model occurred which saved time and cost.
  • Adherence to right standard by project design members at appropriate stage of the project Such kind of compliance to the standards and sharing of model at any point of time enabled the right time to support project based decision making.
  • Take Offs Utilizing 5D BIM Modeling quantity take-offs occurred in less than 1 week from the creation of model which would rather consume months time with the traditional take-offs through the developed 2-D drawings. Also we incorporated relevant information for the team members of the supply chain management to plan procurement of materials which are of long lead nature, where in it shortened the time frame of supply of materials at site.

4.1.1 The Application OF BIM During Pre-Construction Phase-Constructability Review & Interference Management

The two main components of a facility are constructability review and clash detection or interference among services. Identification and resolution of various issues prior to actual construction through constructability reviews aid in minimization of errors, delays and cost overruns.CII defined the term constructability as “ The optimum use of construction knowledge and experience in  planning, design, procurement and field operations to achieve overall project objectives”[7]. Similarly the CIRIA defined the term buildability as, “The extent  to which the design of a building facilitates ease of construction, subject to overall requirements for the completed building “[8 ]. 4D models are created by linking the 3D elements of the plan and time-based schedule to build it in order to show the sequence of construction of a project. A preliminary time schedule was prepared and linked to its matching component in the BIM model; thus a 4D model using NavisWorks Manage 2009 is generated. Every design component was evaluated and simulation was performed to showcase the virtual design & construction of the building so as to minimize the unforeseen issues encountered on site. This model simulated virtual construction of the building so that every design component was tested and evaluated, minimizing unexpected problems when construction starts on site. The following were the benefits accrued during construction phase:

Clash detection at any instance of time: On application of 4D BIM at particular point of time of the project, the identification and resolving of conflicts among mechanical, electrical and plumbing services at the design phase saved us the time and cost. Large amount of resources and time wastages are avoided along with numerous reworks if clashes are detected at early phase rather than while constructing. For instance figure 10 shows the clash detection of services

Visualization tools-With 4D BIM the concept of 3D model of STP as VR envisioned the construction project team and we would delight the customer buy-in too. Our customer was pleased to view this 3D model of BIM as it offered a real world view. Also we offered a walk through meeting using these tools which served as a decision making tool during review meetings. Figure 11 show the images of STP BIM Model.

Safety Management: With the 4D BIM Model and Walk through effects, our in-house construction safety management team could use this tool for identifying probable potential hazards that could cause incidents and avoided such grave scenarios proactively as depicted in Figure 12.

5.0 Conclusions and Recommendations

To conclude, the introduction of BIM model for Water & Waste Water treatment projects is highly beneficial due to following reasons which we accumulated in this project:

It Improved design reliability, reduced waste / rework, enhanced coordination & fewer errors, improved decision making, ensured greater productivity, higher quality of work, great support for facility management & sustainability, improved safety

Accurate estimation of volume calculations and more precise measurements at different points were prepared in comparison with traditional data entry method. Improved planning, control, management of construction and effective resource utilization

BIM model allowed real time updating of drawing files efficiently and since the dynamic links were created at the beginning it provided the flexibility to make alterations.

We set the pre-customized program for design and when there was any deviation, the software automatically gave us an error message on both the drawing file and log file, associated engineers / planners used to modify accordingly and comply for constraints, if any


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